We Nigerians are an unrealistic group of people. We expected in Obasanjo a magician; we expected him to cure all the country’s ailments in four short years; we expected him to right all the wrongs that had accumulated since the days of Shehu Shagari through the ignominious and inglorious regime of Sani Abacha. This is unfair. For all the years that Ibrahim Babangida accelerated the decay of the country – who amongst the current bunch of presidential candidates protested?
One would be hard-pressed to find 30 Nigerians — over the age of 35 — one would consider “politically clean and honest; not corrupt and incorruptible in terms of power and money; not morally and ethically bankrupt; and has the proper educational training and skills” to run and manage our national affairs.
For well over 20-years, and without scruples, duplicitous Nigerians looted the treasury; allowed public and private infrastructures to decay; ignored the rule of law; trampled on democratic institutions; fostered a culture of laziness, corruption, clientelism and ineptitude. For over two decades, the military bastardized the country and for much of that period a vast majority of the civilian population simply went along. And so it was that a country that was once considered the doyen of the black world found itself in the gutter.
President Olusegun Obasanjo is not entirely free of the blame. He wined and dined with the “devils,” and in the process became beholden to too many interest groups. What galls me is the hypocrisy, the duplicity and the chameleonic nature of all those that are calling for Obasanjo’s head. None of them can perform better; none of them has the courage, the strength of character, a sense of purpose and vision; none of them can save Nigeria from itself – except the likes of Chief Gani Fawehimi.
Come April, Obasanjo will win; he will, not because people like Chief Gani Fawehimi – one of the very few beacons of hope left in Nigeria – is incapable of beating Obasanjo at the polls; but because, all those malevolent rogues from Minna to Sokoto to Port Harcourt and Lagos would collude to rig the electoral process — knowing that Obasanjo is not likely to disrupt their access to ill-gotten oil money and political power. For this reason therefore, they would “leave him in peace.”
Moreover, Obasanjo, like most of the incumbent governors would be returned to power because as Daniel Etounga-Manguelle posited, “In Africa…the entire social body accepts, as a natural fact, the servitude imposed by the strongman of the moment. It has been argued that the underdeveloped are not the people, they are the leaders. This is both true and false. If African peoples were not underdeveloped (that is to say, passive, resigned, and cowardly), why would they accept underdeveloped leaders…”? It’s so sad!
For now, the news coming out of Nigeria — vis-à-vis the primaries is good news. It is a cause for hope, and for celebration. It is, not for the final outcome — in terms of who won their respective primary — but for the process, which is an indication that perhaps, Nigeria is able to conduct elections without resorting to unsavory behaviors. The eyes and focus of the world community would be on Nigeria during the general election in April. Therefore, as a people, and as a nation, we cannot afford to fail and we must not allow ourselves to fail. Our national reputation is at stake.
Not all contestants and stakeholders in the primaries were happy about the process, and about the outcome. And that’s to be expected. From now until after the general election in April — there would be dissenting voices; and there would be those who will cry foul. But that’s all right, too. It is the nature of party politics. In all democracies, young and old, some manner of grumbling is expected during, and after primaries and especially after general elections.
The contestants who fail to realize their immediate political ambition should not resort to violence or extra judicial means. Instead, I would counsel any of the following five recourse: (1) accept your lot, congratulate the winners and commit your resources to the success of the party in readiness for the general election; (2) lodge your protest with the party headquarters in manners consistent with the party’s rules and regulations; (3) petition a court of law with appropriate jurisdiction over electoral matters; (4) decamp and join any of the opposing political parties; or (5) quit party politics, and gently fade into the sunset, or pursue other vocations. Employing extralegal methods demean one’s sensibility and humanity.
In party politics, an incumbent usually wins. Incumbents win because of a variety of factors: name recognition; utilization of state resources at their disposal; the promise of patronage; extensive party network; the ability to draw upon favors owed, personal loyalty to the incumbent, and a host of other reasons.
What we must not lose sight of is the fact that primaries and general elections are never a hundred percent free and fair. They are not meant to be. They cannot be. What matters is the degree of fairness, and to what extent the rules of the process is followed and obeyed. Even in the best of democracies or electoral systems – Netherlands, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA, and Australia — there usually are some form of legal wrangling and manipulations; backroom deals; consensus, compromises, promises of future favors; and a host of other techniques. This is part of the culture of party politics.
Overall, party politics is not for amateurs and greenhorns, or for the faint-hearted. Therefore, during the primaries, any, or a combination of the aforementioned practices must have taken place. So long as none of the contestants abridged electoral laws, then, it is politically healthy and commendable. When it comes to contesting against incumbents – there is never a level playing field. The opponents and the oppositions are always at a disadvantage.
It would only offend one’s sense of equity if President Obasanjo, and other contestants had employed thugs, vagabonds and the state security apparatus to intimidate, coerce and threatened opponents or the electorate into voting in a predetermined manner. It would be unethical, immoral and criminal if Obasanjo and other contestants had “Floridarized” the votes by double counting, discount legitimate ballots, encouraged hostile campaign environment, and or engaged in other politically reprehensible campaign and election tactics.
As an aside, I offer some simple observations: (1) Responsible, responsive and capable politicians don’t always win primaries and elections; and in the same vein — rotten, malevolent and inept politicians are known to be victorious, and (2) At this point in the history of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo is the man with power, and as Hedrick Smith in The Power Game (1988) allowed, “…power is the ability to make something happen or to keep it from happening. It can spring from tactical ingenuity and jugular timing, or simply from knowing more than anyone else at the critical moment of decision.” As a trained military officer, President Obasanjo clearly understood this.